The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Local officials reflect on aftermath of failed censure of Johnson County attorney

The censure failed in a 13-34 vote at the Johnson County Democrats Central Committee meeting in early February.
Madison Frette
Members of the Johnson County Democratic Party’s Central Committee meet at Carpenters Local in Iowa City on Thursday Feb. 1, 2024. The committee was voting on whether to censure the Johnson County Attorney Rachel Zimmermann Smith.

Although several Johnson County public officials were split over Supervisor Vice Chair Jon Green’s proposed censure of the county attorney, the officials do not see this issue as a roadblock to performing their official duties.

In early February, the Johnson County Democrats Central Committee voted on a resolution that would censure county attorney Rachel Zimmermann Smith for criminal charges brought upon seven protestors.

The seven protesters who were charged over a month after they initially protested all identify as transgender. The charges have sparked subsequent protests and backlash from community members. The protesters were charged with disorderly conduct and interference with official acts for blocking the street and officers that were at the protest.

The resolution brought to the committee by Green, failed to pass in a 13-34 vote.

In an interview with The Daily Iowan, Green said he was disappointed in the result of the vote and felt the result acknowledged a “gulf” that has existed within the Democratic Party for some time.

“I think that we are staring down the face of an openly hostile state government,” Green said. “The gulf is: Is this where we draw the line, is this where we say no more, no further? As opposed to holding our power back for some future battle.”

While the result is not what he hoped for, Green said he understood why the members of the central committee would not want to criticize another county official.

In an email to the DI, Zimmermann Smith wrote that she is a proud Johnson County Democrat, and she is proud of the committee for the work they do. When it comes to whether this censure will impact her ability to work with those who voted to censure her, Zimmermann Smith wrote that she would continue to do her job undeterred.

“In terms of local government, from my experience, there is no impact,” Zimmermann Smith wrote. “My dedicated staff and I are focused on working hard every day to serve our community.”

Green said he would continue to work with the county attorney professionally despite the results of the censure vote. He said he hopes those who voted against the censure have a better understanding of the current political and social climate transgender individuals are living through.

“I would hope that folks who voted against it do have a better understanding now of why this is such a big deal,” Green said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean that if we had another vote, that the outcome would change, but I hope that they are beginning to understand just how terrifying this is for people right now.”

Ed Cranston, the chair of the Johnson County Democrats Central Committee, said all committee members feel it is important to advocate for the rights and protection of transgender individuals, especially with the slew of legislation that affects transgender individuals from the state legislature. However, he said he did not feel the censure resolution was an appropriate way to express that advocacy.

“It was a situation where it was a pending case, so really it was not appropriate for the county attorney to share information,” Cranston said. “So, without that information to censure someone, I was not comfortable in doing that.”

A more appropriate expression of support was another resolution that was unanimously passed at the same meeting as the censure, Cranston said. The resolution condemned recent legislation that would affect LGBTQ+ rights from Iowa Republicans, specifically legislation that would remove gender identity as a protected class in the Iowa Civil Rights Act.

Other public officials who are members of the central committee have expressed regret for how they voted in the censure. Andrew Dunn, a member of the committee and an Iowa City city councilor, shared a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, apologizing for recusing himself from the censure vote.

He donated $500 to a fundraiser for the charged protestors. As of Feb. 24, the fundraiser has raised nearly $14,000 of its $20,000 goal.

Dunn declined to comment further after being contacted by the DI.

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About the Contributors
Isabelle Foland
Isabelle Foland, News Editor
Isabelle Foland is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication and minoring in Spanish. She is a second-year news reporter at The Daily Iowan, reporting mainly on Iowa City City Council. She is from Missouri Valley, Iowa and has reported for her hometown paper prior to her time at The DI.
Madison Frette
Madison Frette, Photojournalist
Madison Frette is a second-year student at The University of Iowa double majoring in Business Analytics and Information Systems and Cinematic Arts. This is her first year working as a photojournalist for The Daily Iowan.